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Abraham’s Family Feud – Part 1

Who are the modern-day Palestinians? What are the historical origins of the Palestinians, and why are they in constant conflict with the nation of Israel? What does the Bible have to say about this conflict and how it will end? We will try and answer these questions, and others, in this article.

FROM WHOM ARE MODERN-DAY PALESTINIANS DESCENDED

The Palestinians are a group of people descended from different kingdoms and nations who have inhabited the region of the Southern Levant over the millennia, and who are today culturally and linguistically Arab. The Southern Levant is a geographical region encompassing the southern half of the Levant (a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of West Asia). It corresponds approximately to modern-day Israel, Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip), Jordan, southern Lebanon, southern Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula.

“Prior to the mid-20th century, the term Palestinian was used as a regional term, much like referring to residents of parts of the United States as ‘Southerners.’ This usage dates back to several centuries before Christ. The word Palestinian has its roots in a Hebrew word meaning ‘Philistine.’ Until Israel was re-established as a nation in 1948, Palestine was the term for the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The word Palestinian was applied to anyone living in that area.

As one of the longest continually inhabited places on earth, this region has changed political ownership numerous times and has been a nexus of migration for many different cultures. The modern-day ‘Palestinians’ represent a mixture of local inhabitants and many other groups of Muslims brought from Bosnia, the Balkans, and the Caucasus by the Turks in the 16th to 19th centuries; and from the Sudan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon by the British in the 20th century. In common use today, the term Palestinian is primarily applied to non-Jewish, Arabic-speaking residents of this region. This usage is highly controversial, however, since for most of human history a ‘Palestinian’ was simply a person born or living in that land. When used in reference only to non-Jews, it implies a historical claim to the territory in opposition to Israel. In reality, the concept of Palestine as a nation-state in opposition to Israel or as a racial group predating the presence of Jewish inhabitants is historically false. Recent genetic studies have confirmed that the ancestries of Jewish and Arabic inhabitants of Palestine are extremely similar. Geneticists have concluded that the people living in these regions share a common ancestry, through people groups continually living in the Palestine territory. This directly contradicts the claim that certain inhabitants, particularly Jewish inhabitants of Israel, have no ancestral claim to the land. At the same time, there is no evidence suggesting that modern Palestinians are direct descendants of either the Canaanites or the Philistines of the Old Testament. Many Arabs are descendants of Ishmael; but, since the land of Canaan was promised to the sons of Jacob, Arabs have no biblical claim to the land of Palestine.” {1} From whom are the modern Palestinians descended? | GotQuestions.org

The term Palestinian did not take on its current popular meaning until the mid-20th century. The ‘Palestinians’ of today do not descend from, and bear no relation to, the ancient Philistines who dwelled along Israel’s coast in Biblical times. Many scholars believe the Philistines weren’t descendants of Shem or Ham but of Japheth. It was only on May 28, 1964, the date on which the PLO was established, that the Arabs in Israel began using the name ‘Palestinian.’

THE LAND OF CANAAN IN THE TIME OF THE HEBREW PATRIARCHS

According to the Torah, the land God promised to Abraham was originally called Canaan. “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there” (Genesis 11:31).


After Terah died in Haran, Abram departed and traveled to the Promised Land. “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came”(Genesis 12:4-5).

It was at this time that the LORD appeared unto Abram and made a promise (an unconditional covenant) to him. “And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto your seed will I give this land: and there built an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.” Abram and his family entered the land of Canaan in 2084 AM (1876 BC according to my reckoning). Abram was 75 years old at this time.


The land of Canaan got its name from one of the sons of Ham, the son of Noah. Canaan was one of four sons born to Ham after the great flood. The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite” (Genesis 10:15-18).

In Genesis 15, the LORD confirmed His covenant with Abram, saying Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Genesis 15:18-21). Out of the eleven descendants of Canaan, the names of four only are given here; the others are included in the common name of the Canaanites. On the other hand, four tribes are given, whose descent from Canaan is very improbable.


The antisemitic slogan often chanted by Hamas and their followers, “From the River to the Sea, Palestinians will be free,” implies a desire for Israel to be exterminated and the ‘Palestinians’ to then inherit the land between the Jordan River, which borders eastern Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.

However, the LORD told Abram that his descendants (through Isaac and Jacob/Israel) would inherit the land from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River that flows from modern-day Syria through Iraq per Genesis 15:18-21 and Exodus 23:29-31. The land would include Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, part of Saudi Arabia, a portion of Egypt, and about half of Iraq per Numbers 34:2-12 and Ezekiel 47:13-20. See a map of the land God gave Abram in Genesis 15 - Bing images. Today Israel only possesses a small portion of the Promised Land.

After Abram had been in the land of Canaan for ten years, Sarai gave him Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid, as a surrogate wife. When Abram was 86 years old they had Ishmael. When Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared unto him and told him Sarai, who was 90 years old, would conceive and have a child the next year. At this point, God changed her name to Sarah.

“And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year“ (Genesis 17:19-21).

When Isaac was old enough to be weaned, Sarah had Abraham exile Ishmael and Hagar because of their lack of respect for her and Isaac. God promised Hagar that Ishmael, as a son of Abraham, would become a great nation (Genesis 21:17-18). The beginning of this prophecy is recorded in Genesis 25:12-18. Ishmael had twelve sons (with an Egyptian wife) who became great rulers and eventually a nation of people. Ishmael’s descendants lived in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Also settling in this area were the descendants of Keturah’s (Abraham’s second wife) sons and some of Esau’s descendants, among them the Amalekites.

The descendants of Ishmael became known as Arabs, which basically means “nomads.” From the beginning, the descendants of Ishmael were a warlike people, as “they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them” (Genesis 25:18). This fulfilled God’s earlier word that Ishmael would be “a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).


When Isaac was forty years old he married Rebekah, his second cousin. According to the Book of Genesis, the patriarchal family line is a self-contained unit, originating solely in Abraham’s father, Terah. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even Joseph were all descended on both sides from Terah.

Sarai was Abram's half-sister (Genesis 20:12) and therefore not only Isaac's mother but also his aunt. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel, Isaac's own cousin through Nahor (Abram’s brother). Bethuel was also the son of Isaac's own cousin, Milcah (Nahor’s niece through his other brother Haran). Jacob, in turn, married his cousins, Rachel and Leah (daughters of Laban, son of Bethuel). Rebekah and Isaac were closely related, as second cousins on both sides, separated by one generation through Nahor and Bethuel, or two generations through Haran, Milcah and Bethuel. Confused yet? See Abraham's family tree - Wikipedia for a better picture.


Isaac and Rebekah had two sons (twins), Esau, the elder, and Jacob. Before she conceived, the LORD told her, “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Their birth is told in Genesis 25:24-26: “And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward, his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob.”


Esau’s name means ‘red’ and Jacob’s name means ‘supplanter,’ ‘deceitful,’ or “one who takes the heel.” Esau’s name appears to be prophetic (as well as Jacob’s), as we all know the story of how he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red stew (Genesis 25:29-34). Verse 34 says, “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 27 tells the story of how Rebekah and Jacob deceived Isaac into giving the blessing (usually reserved for the eldest son) to Jacob. Verse 29 gives the last part of the blessing, “Let people serve you, and nations bow down to you: be lord over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you: cursed be everyone that curses you, and blessed be he that blesses you.”


Esau, seeing that the daughters of Canaan didn’t please their father, Isaac, married a daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham. Many years later, after Isaac died, Esau married two Canaanite women, one a Hittite and the other a Hivite. And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob. For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle. Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom” (Genesis 36:6-9).


The Bible mentions that the descendants of Esau grew and became a nation, the Edomites, while Israel and his sons eventually moved to Egypt and exploded in numbers. The ancient kingdoms of Edom, Moab, and Ammon were located in what is today called Jordan. Moab and Ammon were children of Lot’s incestuous relationships with his two daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:30-38).


After the children of Israel left Egypt after centuries of slavery, and the Angel of the LORD destroyed the armies of Pharaoh at the Red Sea crossing, Moses and the people sang a song to the LORD. It was also a song of prophecy for when the Israelites would eventually enter the Promised Land.

And they sang unto the LORD: “The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of your arm they shall be as still as a stone; till your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which you have purchased. You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which you have made for you to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The LORD shall reign forever and ever” (KJV - Genesis 15:14-18).

40 YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS


After a few months in the wilderness, the first battle that the children of Israel fought was against the descendants of Amalek. Amalek was a grandson of Esau and ruled a clan or territory in the Negev desert region. Joshua leads Israel in battle, and Moses watches from a hillside. When Moses' hand is raised, Israel prevails, but when it is lowered, Israel falters. So he keeps his hand raised through the entire battle, even having assistants hold him up so that the battle will go to Israel. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. “And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; for he said, Because the LORD has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:15-16).


In Deuteronomy 25:17–19, the Israelites are specifically commanded to blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven once they have taken possession of the promised land in retribution for what Amalek did to them as they were coming out of Egypt. “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”


Later that year, after the 12 spies of Israel gave their mostly bad report of the inhabitants of Canaan, the Israelites tried to enter Canaan without the LORD’s blessing and permission. The LORD had actually told them to turn around and go back by the way of the Red Sea but they disobeyed Him once again. “Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah” (Numbers 14:45). The children of Israel would spend the next 39 years wandering in the desert for their lack of faith and disobedience.


During the last year of the Exodus, Israel “came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there” (Numbers 20:1). This was the place where Moses and Aaron disobeyed the LORD and struck the rock to bring water out of it instead of speaking to the rock. Also, Moses spoke as if it was by his and Aaron’s power and not the Lord’s that water would come out of the rock. “And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock” (Numbers 20:10). For their disobedience, they would not enter the Promised Land.


After this, Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom asking for permission to pass through their land to get to Canaan. The message began by calling the Edomites “brothers” (as Esau and Jacob were brothers). The message stipulated “We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory” (Numbers 20:17).


Edom responded with, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” Israel asked permission again stipulating they would simply pass through disturbing nothing, but once again Edom said “You shall not pass through.” So Israel turned away and went around Edom. The LORD did not want Israel to wage war against Edom at this time because God had given the land of Edom to Esau and his descendants (Deuteronomy 2:5).


From Kadesh, the children of Israel traveled to Mount Hor where Aaron died. All the house of Israel mourned him for thirty days. The Israelites then fought and won against the king of Arad, the Canaanite, and utterly destroyed their cities. They then camped in the wilderness east of Moab and fought and won against the Amorites. The king of the Amorites was King Sihon, who was similar to the king of Edom in that he would not allow the Israelites to cross through his country to Canaan. The Israelites took possession of all their lands and lived in their cities for a brief period. Sihon’s territory was next to Ammon, however, the Israelites did not possess the lands of Ammon as the LORD had given that land to Lot’s descendants (Deuteronomy 2:9).


Next on the list were the Amorites of Jazer and Og, king of Bashan. They defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left him; and they took possession of his land. Then the children of Israel moved and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. They did not take the lands of Ammon as the LORD had given that land to Lot’s descendants (Deuteronomy 2:19).


In Numbers 22-24, we see the story of Balak, king of Moab, hiring Balaam the seer to curse Israel. However, the Angel of the LORD intervenes and puts words in the mouth of Balaam that bless Israel instead. This occurs four times. On the fourth time, Balaam prophesies that Israel will eventually conquer Edom, Moab, and the Amalekites. While Israel was in Moab, the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab and Midian. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel. The LORD sent a plague that killed 24,000 people before He stopped It because of the righteous act of Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest (Numbers 25:6-7).


Israel went to war against the Midianites and killed all their males, including five kings of Midian and Balaam the Seer. The slaughter and the dividing up of the spoil and booty, both of man and beast, is mentioned in Numbers 31. Two and a half tribes of Israel (Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh) decided to settle on the lands east of the Jordan River (Jazer and Gilead) as an inheritance with the promise to help the other tribes when they went to war against the tribes of the inhabitants of Canaan.

Before Moses died on Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, the LORD told Moses,


Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.


But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. Moreover, it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them” (Numbers 33:50-53,55-56).


This was a prophecy that was fulfilled about seven centuries later for the kingdom of Israel and then another century later for the kingdom of Judah.


Randy Nettles

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